Hello in 2011,
As promised I will say something about our holidays in Norway.
Most years we go home to the states for Christmas and New Years. In 2005, however, we spent the holidays in Loviisa, Finland at the home of Petri and Tea Latvala. Some consider Finland to be the land of Christmas. Northern Finland has somewhat arctic conditions similar to parts of Canada. Reindeer are raised there and they have Christmas Village near the city of Rovaniemi. In contrast, Petri and Tea live along the southern shores of Finland and Christmas there was much like Christmas in southern New England. Sometimes there is snow and sometimes there is not. Petri and Tea made Christmas very warm and homelike. The four of us spent a day with Tero and Pia Lalu and their children. Pia is a good cook and she did a wonderful job baking a typical Finnish pastry for the holiday season, which I like very much. It is a croissant like star with five points and a plum filling in the middle. I probably ate more than my share. Otherwise the meal was much like in America with one key exception. No turkey. Turkeys are very expensive in Finland as we discovered one Thanksgiving when we bought two and had a crowd over to our apartment in Lahti. As 2005 was our first holiday season in Finland, 2010 was our first in Norway. And, as then, we stayed and enjoyed the holidays. At Christmas time we joined a church Christmas party in Harstad. It was familiar to us in some ways and very different in other ways. Christmas carols were sung, even in English. The Christmas story was read. But see the little girl? She appeared as an angel carrying a candle to represent the angels who appeared to light up the sky the night Christ was born. She spoke a traditional Norwegian declaration of peace and good-will from God toward men and handed out ginger cookies. Instead of our typical pot-luck, everyone brought different breads sliced and covered in a variety of arrangements of fish, beef, pork, cheese, egg, fruit or sliced veggies. We tried many of these combinations and loved several of them. For desert they served a traditional jello-like chocolate pudding with a rich cream to pour over it. There was also a red berry sauce with vanilla cream and ginger cookies. All are very good. For our Christmas meal we found that turkey in Norway is about the same price as in the states. This was a surprise as Norwegian prices are generally much higher than in Finland. So we had turkey and the usual stuff like mashed potatoes and gravy and my wife’s stuffing recipe. Debby tried her hand at a traditional Norwegian rice pudding with a strawberry sauce. I enjoyed it. Supposedly the cook would slide an almond in the pudding. Whoever found the almond in their pudding won a prize called “The Almond Gift.” In Sweden they will be married or have a baby the next year. In Norway they get a small chocolate or marzipan pig. Or they get to open their presents first. I heard someone say the prize was cleaning up and washing the dishes. Ha. That’s what I get. What I missed this year was apple or minced-meat pie. I am ordering them up for this year when we are home to the states for Christmas.
For New Years we went to our landlord’s home. He and his wife lead a home group Bible study and are part of their church leadership. They also had turkey, mashed potatoes and some great salmon plus a variety of waffle cone like deserts and some great cakes. At midnight we walked up the snowy road above their home to the church yard at the top of the hill. From there we watched fire works going off in every direction you could see for about a half hour. We have made several good friends and enjoyed our holidays a great deal. The sunny mountain photo was on the way toward Sweden in November, for our last ministry trip to Finland before the holidays. At that time there was still plenty of sunlight, as you can see. The next picture is from our window in Harstad, Norway on December 23. By then we had not seen the sun for over 10 days or so and this was the brightest it got that day. Today is January 17 and I had hoped to see the sun today, but it still did not rise high enough to see from where we live.
Notice Debby enjoying a cup of coffee as she relaxes on a rocker at the home of Tarja and IlkkaMatti Aho in Muurame, Finland. We have had many wonderful ministry meetings in their home. They are wonderful hosts who never fail to make us welcome.
The remaining photo is from our window in Harstad. Many mornings we see these fabulous sunrises or should I say almost sunrises, at this time of year. We expect to see the sun again in a day or so.
We also expect to see the Son of God lifted up in this city and in other cities of northern Norway. The Christian churches here are mainly small, though some are vibrant with life. Pray that the Lord encourage and strengthen them for the task of winning the lost here. And pray that the Lord give us boldness as witnesses in this area but also to equip believers to be more fruitful and to rise up in the power of the Spirit to transform this region for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This month we start a five part course on healing and evangelism. We expect the Lord to move mightily through those who attend, as well as many others they reach for Christ. Praise God for each of you! Kevin & Deborah Martin